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Brie Stoner reflects on process, connection and identity following recent album release

Local musician Brie Stoner, ahead of her Pyramid Scheme show, reflects on her journey, identity and the making of her debut album "Me Veo."

/Rosie Accola

When Brie Stoner joins me on Zoom a couple of days before her headlining show at the Pyramid Scheme, she’s sitting in front of a pink silk backdrop covered in screen-printed curlicued frames. It’s the backdrop for the show, Stoner explains breezily. It’s a fitting backdrop for “Me Veo,” Stoner’s first full-length record, which she describes as a “silky patchwork” of sounds and influences.

“I definitely felt a little stretched between landscapes,” Stoner said of her whirlwind record release week. She is currently finishing principal recordings for her second album, which was released on May 3 with Label 51. 

Stoner is guided by what she calls “a core artistic philosophy of unknowing.” Unknowing is also the name of her podcast. 

“I kind of feel that is the gateway to imagination and broadening our horizons beyond the certitudes of rationalism,” the rising local musician told The Rapidian.

Stoner spent the past three years perfecting “Me Veo,” enlisting the help of her longtime friend and artistic collaborator David Vandervelde, who frequently collaborates with and plays guitar alongside Father John Misty. 

“We’ve played coffee shops together. We’ve come up together. We worked with the late Jay Bennett from Wilco together,” Stoner said of Vandervelde. “I’ve always had David at my side. I feel so fortunate for that.”

‘Lost in translation’

Stoner’s family moved to Spain when she was six months old. She grew up in Madrid, before moving to Grand Rapids when she was 15. Spanish was her first language, though as a singer-songwriter she writes in Spanish, English and occasionally French.

“Spain is still what I consider to be home,” Stoner said. “At the time that I was conceiving this album, I was really homesick for Europe. I was even speaking with my mother recently about how I miss the sound of Spanish cafes. Just, the sound of the waiters and the sound of the glasses. I was drawn to write in Spanish and French because there’s some things that get lost in translation.”

When Stoner moved to Grand Rapids as a teenager, the chaos of moving jumpstarted her passion for songwriting. 

“That move was really pivotal for me because that was the first time I picked up my dad’s guitar and wrote my first song. We moved from Indiana to Michigan,” Stoner explained. “I think music really provided an outlet for me to transmute the experience of pain into one of beauty and process my feelings. It made me who I am. It gifted me music.”

To this day, Stoner speaks fondly of Grand Rapids and its music scene, referring to GR as “the best-kept secret of the Midwest.”

Stoner recorded “Me Veo” locally at Local Legend Recording Studios, “It’s a treasure trove. It’s so beautifully set up,” Stoner gushed.

“It’s a resource to have that kind of communal support.”

She is also an active participant in the Grand Rapids music scene, working hard to cultivate community among female musicians locally.

Laura Hobson, the lead singer of the Grand Rapids-based band Phabies, first met Stoner at one of her frequent and festive dinner parties.

“Brie reached out to me in 2021. She wanted to gather some of the female musicians in Grand Rapids to get to know one another outside of a show setting. She does that like three or four times a year. It’s at her house. It’s beautiful. She throws these big dinner parties, it’s potluck style. We just get to meet other women who are doing what we’re doing. It’s nice to meet people outside of a day where you’re playing a set,” Hobson said during an interview at Last Mile Cafe.

During our interview, Stoner laughs while saying the female-fronted artists unofficially call themselves the coven. Stoner cites these friendships as a welcome antidote to the sense of competition that’s fostered in the music industry. 

“It’s a resource to have that kind of communal support,” she said. “There’s this idea out there that artists need to pit themselves against one another. It’s really ridiculous. When one of us starts to do something exciting, we’re all benefitting because we’re all in this together.”

Stoner also credits her connections with other musicians as one of her main sources of inspiration. 

“I’m so deeply inspired by the women who are participating in the show on Wednesday. The women in Grand Rapids in the music scene are all pretty badass,” Stoner said.

Like many of us, Stoner’s life shifted during the pandemic. This shift inspired her to dive deeper into her practice as a musician, planting the seeds for what would ultimately become “Me Veo.”  

“At the time, the organization I was working for ran out of funding,” she said. “In that full-stop moment, I gave myself permission to create the space to create again. I turned to my first language of writing songs and painting. I started my podcast.”

Stoner describes her sound as “Indie dream rock.” While making “Me Veo” she dove deep into the sounds and textures she wanted to inhabit, donning vintage silk kimonos as she scoured her collection of vintage postcards. She listened to records like Serge Gainsbourg’s “Histoire de Melodie Nelson,” and artists like Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young.

“I started to feel my way into this mood--this sort of sensual, erotic sigh of surrender in myself. Feeling into the soft edges of my femininity, coming home to being so much more than one thing,” Stoner said. “I think I always had to feel like I had to choose between being academic or being artistic, being from Spain or being from the States, being a mother or being a lover. I kept everything in its nice, neat, little box until the pandemic and then everything started to collide within me.”

The album’s title ”Me Veo” translates into “I see myself” in Spanish.

“As I’m growing into this next landscape of the second album, I feel a lot of permission as a songwriter to leave behind any notions of container and explore the freedom of expression. Getting playful about it,” Stoner said. “I think that’s one of the joys of experimentation in the studio. I think music is magic, and we’re forced to try and contain that magic in one specific spell when there’s a myriad of spells. There’s a good reason for that.”

Stoner shares stage with local artists to debut new album

Stoner’s album release show at the Pyramid Scheme on May 8 was a stacked bill of friends and collaborators, each casting their own synthy spells. 

The same pink backdrop from our interview hung behind the bands. Multi-instrumentalist Marsfade kicked off the night with a quick, but tantalizing set, peppered with shoegaze and no wave sensibilities. She was backed by her brothers on keys and drums. It was their first time playing as a three-piece. The siblings also play in the Grand Rapids indie band Low Phase.

Phabies followed for a quick set, including a couple of new songs. The indie-rock-driven “Green Cement” stands out as a highlight, allowing Hobson’s narrative-based songwriting to shine as she sings, “Show me where you’re buried/ under green cement.” Phabies closed their set with a crowd favorite, “Clarice,” off their 2022 record “Fire Seed.” 

The special guest for the evening was the dark pop duo In the Valley Below. Originally formed in Echo Park, California in 2011, the duo now lives in Grand Rapids.

Before they stepped onstage, Stoner took a moment to thank them for their frequent collaboration and friendship, saying that their kids are best friends. The whole night felt like a celebration of the Grand Rapids music scene.

Their set was hypnotic from the moment vocalist Angela Gail stepped up to the synths. I was entranced. Guitarist Jeffrey Jacobs is a skilled instrumentalist and lively performer. Their sound is a mix of darkwave meets indie sleaze. Picture Siouxie and the Banshees for the Instagram generation. It’s easy to picture their songs echoing throughout a warehouse party, but watching the duo play at their hometown venue surrounded by friends and neighbors felt especially poignant.

Their 12-year-old son, Griffin, joined them on drums for the final song of their set, “Brushfire,” a rousing indie rock number with kinetic guitars. Griffin’s drumming instantly texturized the live version, providing an arena-rock dimension.

Stoner stepped onstage around nine, poised and ready — a natural performer. What struck me most throughout her set is how thoroughly she embodies her songs. She moves her body alongside the guitar riffs, allowing herself to feel fully, not only within the moment but also within the music. Stoner’s voice has the vocal tone of Lana Del Rey, sensual and meandering, traipsing along the melody.

When she launched into “Honey,” one of the standout tracks on the new album, it was clear that Stoner embodied the sensuality she sought during the initial stages of recording. Watching her perform in a white lace dress paired with fishnet tights, I saw echoes of her influences—the ethereal stage presence of Stevie Nicks coupled with a mod magnetism.

Phabies vocalist Hobson joined Stoner onstage to sing “San Cristobal.” 

Stoner also played several songs off her forthcoming EP, “Like a Man.” While the songs on “Me Veo” are more sensual, “Like a Man” leans into some of Stoner’s rock sensibilities.

Stoner closed the show with an encore of an unreleased song titled after a Mary Oliver poem. She called the song her “divorce anthem,” telling the crowd that she hoped it would resonate. 

For Stoner, resonance is the name of the game. 

“When we perform songs, the only thing you hope for is resonance. Maybe it can also resonate in such a way that it helps other people come home to themselves, too,” Stoner said.


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